Stewart is one of many fans who are hopelessly trying to find one more Fruit Stripe pack, to experience 10 more seconds of absolute bliss, save it for posterity or turn a profit by selling to others searching for the gum.
The 39-year-old Washington resident planned to spend the weekend going to small gas stations and anywhere else a pack of the gum might still be.
“It’s one of those things you kind of forget about, until you see the news,” Stewart said. “It reminds you of ice cream trucks, of riding your bike to the gas station, of those mini tattoos.”
The “brightly-flavored” gum, as Ferrara described it on a webpage that now redirects to the company’s main site, arrived in stores in the early 1960s. The nostalgic gum was particularly ubiquitous during the childhoods of many millennials and was a staple in grocery store checkout aisles.
Fruit Stripes were fun. Customers could give themselves temporary tattoos with the gum wrappers of the brand’s mascot, Yipes the Zebra, playing basketball, biking or doing something active.
“Tattoos inside!” one package read. “Wet ’em and Wear ’em.”
Fruit Stripes were colorful. The packs — with as many as 17 gum strips — came with five colors and flavors of gum with zebra stripes to resemble Yipes, such as “Wet ’n’ Wild Melon,” cherry, lemon, orange and peach.
“Yipes! Stripes! Fruit-striped gum,” one advertisement from 1991 sang. “It’s a yummy fruity one.”
Fruit Stripes were flavorful — until they notoriously weren’t, often just a few chews later.
In the fall of 2021, Greg Guidotti, then the general manager of Ferrara’s sugar portfolio and now the company’s chief marketing officer, told Food Business News that Fruit Stripe sales were up 4.5 percent. Ferrara at the time was launching Fruit Stripe gummies, which were “more relevant to consumers today,” Guidotti told the site.
Ferrara’s website appears to have taken down the brand’s site, though it still shows the gum in an image of its suite of candies that include SweeTarts, Nerds and Lemonheads.
This week’s decision to “sunset this product was not taken lightly,” Brian Camen, a Ferrara spokesman, said in a statement.
“We have made the difficult decision to sunset Fruit Stripe Gum, but consumers may still be able to find product at select retailers nationwide,” Camen said. Amazon, Walmart and other large retailers listed Fruit Stripes as unavailable as of Friday.
And now, Fruit Stripes are sentimental.
Stewart, who finds hidden treasures that sell for cheap and are easy to flip for a profit, thinks he can sell each pack for at least $30. But he might want keep one if he can find it, so in 30 years he can take one out of a box and briefly remember his childhood in the 1990s.
“That piece of gum was different,” he said. “When you took the paper off, it had those stripes, which I guess was to keep your mind off of the fact that it lasted 10 seconds. But that was the best 10 seconds of your life as a kid.”